Chapter 8 - The Beach

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The next morning Sabine and I awoke to find a black envelope under our door. Inside it was a note informing us that "His Majesty" needed time to deliberate over the interview footage, so eliminations won't be happening until two days from now. In the meantime, we would be taking a trip to the boardwalk.

The envelope also contained two silver necklaces with the royal insignia dangling from them. We were to wear those on our trip out of the hotel to receive free food and rides.

Sabine wasn't happy about the news that our elimination had been put off, but I was exited to get out of the hotel. And more importantly, out of Sabine's crosshairs.

She hadn't done anything since our little confrontation before my interview, but I wouldn't put it past her to try something again. Especially after she admitted she enjoyed toying with me. I wanted to avoid her, and a trip out of the hotel was the perfect opportunity.

The fifty remaining contestants gathered in the lobby, all dressed in colorful beach wear. I could tell which girls lived on the coast and which ones didn't by how much stuff they brought with them. I kept my pack light, bringing only a beach towel, sunscreen, and a pair of sunglasses. While it was too cold to swim in my hometown for most of the year, I was no stranger to water.

Our ride turned out to be a long, white charter bus. We all filled in and I found myself sitting next to a tall girl with long, strawberry blonde hair. She looked familiar and it took me a second to realize that she was the girl I asked about the interview the previous night. She looked very different out of her dress and makeup. Still gorgeous though, I thought bitterly.

She smiled and offered her hand to me. "I'm Lydia Bell."

I shook her hand awkwardly. "Avery Crawford."

She raised her eyebrows. "Oh! Aren't you that girl Sabine spilled coffee on right before your interview?"

"Yes," I said, sighing. The story probably spread like wildfire among the other girls. I shouldn't be surprised though. With no TV or internet, gossip was the best form of entertainment. One girl trying to sabotage another was a hot piece of gossip.

"Wow. Did you have to change your dress?" she asked.

I nodded. "I don't think it made a difference though."

Lydia frowned. "You think you bombed?"

I shook my head, recalling the mischievous glint in the king's eyes as he said he wanted to see me again. I decided to keep that to myself. It would probably seem like a brag. And I didn't want to brag on the off chance I was wrong. Though said chance was extremely slim, I prayed it was true. Two days is enough for someone to change their mind, right? The novelty of my interview would wear off, the king would decide I'm not worth it, and sent me packing. At least that's what I hoped.

"It doesn't matter. I'd honestly much rather go home," I said, deciding to at least tell her about my feelings. She seemed nice enough.

Lydia laughed. "Lucky you. You don't have to worry about the challenges and enjoy a sweet vacation."

I found myself smiling. Lydia was kind of right. It wasn't much of a vacation, given that my roommate was a metaphorical demon, but I was really looking forward to exploring the boardwalk.

The bus stopped and the girls slowly filed out. I took in the sight of the boardwalk — the arcades, the food stands, and the giant ferris wheel looming over it all — and smiled.

"I haven't been to the beach since I was a kid," Lydia said. I hadn't realized she was standing next to me.

"I go to the beach pretty often, but my town's boardwalk is pretty sad compared to this," I replied. It was true. The Bayside boardwalk was just a pair of docks with some benches, a few seafood restaurants, and seagull poop. Lots of seagull poop.

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